For most people brainstorms probably lead to productive actions. Within my nimble noggin, brainstorms materialize into tornadoes.
And I’m not talking about groundbreaking ideas. I’m talking about the hurricane scenarios housed inside my head that erupt after I’ve scheduled the horror of all horrors — a medical appointment.
The demons inside my demented mind spin out every possible doomsday speech a doctor could utter, including referrals to the specialists who treat the worst diseases known to humankind.
During my early adolescence I discovered a pimple. That pimple gave birth to a lifetime of unfounded fearing. Convinced that an entire face full of pimples would surely follow, I imagined how my classmates would innately hate me and would soon be snickering, referring to me as “pizza face.” I envisioned myself as a cultural outcast banished to a special island, a pimple colony known as Zitsville or whatever.
My panic attacks increased when I suddenly developed stomach jitters. Too young and dumb to recognize them as a simply “growing pains,” I made an appointment with a nerve specialist.
While awaiting the days before the appointment, I immediately brainstormed scenarios involving hopeless nerve diseases. In the worst scenario, a doctor walked into the examination room, silently reading my test results and seemed not to resist quipping: “My advice to you kid is eat, drink and be merry.”
In my 20s when a rash suddenly cropped up on the back of my neck, I spent most of the day scrutinizing it. The next day, boom! Another reared its ugly presence. I made an appointment. While agonizing during the three-day wait period, a third rash sprang forward.
Accepting my fate, I self-diagnosed a number of maladies. I decided I might as well write out my will. I obviously had contracted some kind of creeping crud that would spread all over my body and finally devour me.
Noting that at least I ran no fever, I still consulted a catalogue of possible diseases, calculating which might be most likely to kill me. Meanwhile, my muscles twitched, my limbs tingled and my skin leaked sweat. In short, I became a prisoner to my imagination.
Blame the doomsday scenarios on what must be a crooked cranium. Yeah, let’s face it, my brain malfunctions. I’m a hopeless neurotic. My mind’s circuitry must be out of kilter. That’s it. Yup. Lopsided, scrambled chemicals. My mother-in-law was right: I’m unbalanced.
I checked out this possibility. My research led me to the roots of psychoanalysis. I learned that beginning in the late 19th century, the classic Freudian model of neurosis situated hypochondria as “a struggle between the demands of one’s sexual life and larger sociocultural forces of repression.”
Well, that explains a lot. Whew! All my health fears can be connected to my incredible sensuality.
Knowledge is power. Now that I’ve identified my predicament, I no longer agonize over the possibility of rabies, balboa virus, lice and a string of possibilities linked to the common cold.
No more overthinking. No more scenarios that include the creation of dire headlines: “Man-child succumbs to spider bite.”
No more nightmares since the night I dreamed that we were experiencing a power outage. In the dream, for once I have no psychosomatic symptoms. During this night (before cell phones) I keep waking up to check the clock and I can’t see my wristwatch.
Anyway, the dream sets me running nude through the streets shouting “What time is it? What time is it?” Out of the sky, a big hairy hand grabs me and I hear “Your time is up, buddy.”
Instead of interpreting that dream as a premonition of doom as the old me would surely have done, I saw it as a “time’s up.” Time’s up to stop worrying about the possibility of death.
Miraculously, after that nightmare I experienced not even one horrible health scenario. Ha! That’s just delusional brainstorming. Believe it or not, I’ve made a complete 180-degree turn. Ironically, it took a negative nightmare to resolve my silliness. Who’d a thunk it?
Now, completely cured of hypochondriac episodes, I have somehow found myself entangled within the other extreme. In scenario after scenario, I imagine myself as the epitome of good health. I’m downright invincible. In today’s scenarios I perpetually picture people complimenting me on how totally fit and healthy I look.
And the year is always 2082.
— Steve Eskew
Retired businessman Steve Eskew received master’s degrees in dramatic arts and communication studies from the University of Nebraska at Omaha after he turned 50. After one of his professors asked him to write a theater column, he began a career as a journalist at The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs, Iowa. This led to hundreds of publications in a number of newspapers, most of which appear on his website, eskewtotherescue.com.